Throughout the years, we have watched Emma Watson grow up on screen, alongside her co-stars Rupert Grint and Daniel Radcliffe. From a cute 9-year-old, she has developed into a glamourous young woman. In the process, she has acquired many fans, but probably as many haters too. Some praise her looks, talent and personality, others are annoyed by her mug and less than impressed by her acting skills. Her ubiquitous media presence, her numerous photoshoots and the front seats at major fashion shows have only added up to the controversy. Is she a serious actress, or just a pin-up? Is she a nice, polite girl or a bitchy spoiled diva? Has she been given undeserved credit? Does her popularity overshadow her, more talented, co-stars? The questions abound, and the answers are extremely diverse.
There is no denying that Emma has the biggest following of all Harry Potter stars – there are hundreds of fansites dedicated to her, she usually tops popularity polls, she wins acting awards based on the public vote, and she has landed numerous lucrative modelling jobs. Maybe it’s because she’s the only girl of the Trio — and a beautiful one at that — or maybe because she’s very charming and articulate in interviews. Moreover, despite all the media scrutiny, she hasn’t succumbed to the pressure and she presents herself as a strong, clever, ambitious, well-educated and level-headed young woman, untainted by fame and money. But is this “the real Emma” or not? And more importantly, is Emma’s cocktail of good looks, powerful intellect and the position of media darling enough to secure her a post-Potter career?
I’ve been a part of the Harry Potter fandom for many years now, and it always seemed to me that Emma was the most controversial cast member. The opinions on her acting potential, her portrayal of Hermione, her on-screen presence and off-screen interests have always been extremely divided. On top of that, legions of fans wanted her to end up in an emotional relationship with either Daniel or Rupert, and the debates re: which one would have been a better match just added to the controversy. Of course, our opinion(s) on Emma are, to a great degree, mediated by the media: Emma the celebrity is probably a very different person from the real deal. Emma herself has stated many times that she’d rather be less popular, and her decision to take a break from acting and pursue her University degree after Harry Potter wraps seems to confirm her words.
However, whether she’s happy about that or not, Emma is a public person and, as such, exposed to scrutiny by millions of people who have never met her. We – the movie lovers, Harry Potter fans, movie tickets and magazine buyers – all have our own perceptions of Emma, which have been mediated by the interviews we’ve read, rumours we’ve heard, photos we’ve admired, and last but not least, the movies we’ve seen her in. Thus, my idea was to ask our forum members to share their thoughts and opinions on Emma with us. The fans were asked to answer a questionnaire, comprising ten questions, on various aspects of Emma’s public persona, in order to create a most accurate psychological “photo-robot” of Emma as an actor and a person. My only request to the participating fans was to give honest, detailed and good-spirited answers, and I promised that I wouldn’t reveal their names (unless they insisted lol).
When choosing who to send my questions to, I did not specifically target the self-proclaimed Emma-lovers or Emma-haters: all these nice people who sent their responses are Rupert fans first and foremost, and they have learned to appreciate Emma as a part of the Harry Potter franchise. Of course, some of them like her better than the others, but overall none of them is too biased. They just gave their honest opinions, that’s all. The paragraphs to follow sum up their answers, and hopefully provide additional insight into the Emma Watson phenomenon.
Many thanks to all fans who took the time and effort to answer my questions; and if you are interested in reading everyone’s full responses, you will find the links to the questionnaires below.
The first group of questions focused on Emma as a person and the way she presents herself to the fans and media. The opinions of fans have been overwhelmingly positive – a majority agree that Emma is a clever and down-to-Earth girl, a good role model for other teenagers. They also appreciated her academic ambitions: as summed up by someone, “As an actress making millions of dollars, she could easily play down the necessity of a good education. However, her determination to finish (and excel!) in her studies is such a positive thing for young fans to see.”
As for Emma’s attitude, many fans perceive her as a nice and decent person overall, although some have noticed that Emma can also appear grumpy or aloof in the images. However, we may never know whether this is just a defense mechanism on Emma’s part, a way of protecting her privacy, or a true sign of her moodiness. Although she is very young, Emma has already been on a receiving end of some downright ruthless media intrusiveness – be it speculation about her present and past boyfriends, or paparazzi catching her in compromising poses and plastering photos of Emma flashing her underwear all over the Internet. Some tabloids have described her a b*tchy drama queen, some have hacked into her personal e-mail and published her private correspondence, some have proclaimed her to be a descendant of a true witch, some have declared her dead. None of these is easy to deal with, especially for a girl who is still only 19 years old, and all fans who responded to my questionnaire seem to agree that, so far, Emma has handled the media exposure and pressures that come with it quite admirably.
Related to this is the group of questions about Emma’s career plans and prospects. As we all know, Emma has expressed uncertainty about her future career direction on several occasions, and it definitely looks like she has no idea what she will be doing for living in ten years time! Besides, as noted by a few fans, she seems to contradict herself all the time. She is starting the University in September, so she is definitely interested in academics, and apparently eager to turn her back to living in the spotlight… but no, she also says she would love to do more films during her summer breaks! When asked to choose between acting and modelling she has opted for acting – and yet, she has only done two roles outside of Harry Potter (one voice-over and one TV drama) while at the same time she has accepted numerous modelling jobs.
The fans who responded to the questionnaire seem to think that Emma is expecting too much of herself, and should focus on doing one thing at the time – be it her studies, acting or anything else. In any case, as noted by a fan, “she is in the fortunate situation that she can afford to be uncertain for a while. Others her age have to make decisions for their future life. But she won’t ever have to worry about her income or earning her living, so she can still decide in three years time when she’s finished studying.”
We also “talked” about the way Emma has treated her co-star Rupert Grint over the years. A majority of fans seem to agree that Emma likes and respects Rupert and thinks of him as a good friend. However, quite a few people were disappointed by Emma’s remark that kissing Rupert was “the most horrible thing she’s ever done” (or something). Of course, we all know the context behind this statement (or, should I say, slip): Emma thinks of Rupert as a sibling, thus kissing him in front of the cameras must have been a weird experience for her. Still, the fans felt that she should have worded it differently. And this remark didn’t help excite the fans about the upcoming Ron/Hermione kiss in Deathly Hallows either — despite the fact that all fans agree that Emma is a huge Ron/Hermione shipper who was definitely pleased to learn that these two ended up together.
Allow me to add that, if Emma is serious about continuing with acting, she should better get used to kissing other actors, no matter how she felt about them in real life! In that respect, perhaps she should take some advice from none other than Rupert, who has already kissed four girls on screen (Michelle Duncan, Jessie Cave, Kimberley Nixon and Emma herself). Although he has admitted to feeling uncomfortable when filming those scenes, he’s had nothing but words of praise for his on-screen partners and he made us feel excited about all that snogging. Practice makes perfection, dear Emma!
As for Emma’s acting abilities, a majority of fans are quite doubtful about her acting potential and unhappy with her portrayal of Hermione. When it comes to describing her performance in Harry Potter movies, most opinions have ranged from “decent” to “sh*tty”; and only two interviewed persons have actually been happy with Emma as Hermione. Most fans seem to think that Emma did her best job in the first two movies; one fan voted for Prisoner of Azkaban, and a few have noted that Emma has improved in Half-Blood Prince as compared to Goblet of Fire and Order of the Phoenix. But not a single one of them has described Emma’s acting as “brilliant”. It seems to me that Rupert fans in general do like Emma the person, Emma the beauty and Emma the wisecracker, but not so much Emma the actress. She is rarely referred to as a “natural” actress, someone who was “born to do it”.
To be fair, lots of fans have noted that a part of the reason why they’re disappointed with movie!Hermione is the way the character has been written and directed; as one fan has put it: “This may be the fault of the directors more than Emma the actress. She only performs the way the director asks, and the director gets to choose which scenes to select/edit out.” Still, there’s no denying that Emma’s less-than-impressive acting has also contributed to the fans’ dissatisfaction with Hermione in the movies.
The opinions of those who have seen Emma’s other movies have also been divided: while some fans enjoyed Ballet Shoes and thought that Emma was more comfortable playing Pauline than Hermione, others didn’t notice much change/improvement. A majority of fans agreed that Emma should have done more roles outside of the franchise, in order to gain more experience and learn a thing or two about acting; but they also admitted that it must have been difficult for Emma to joggle her education with acting commitments. Most fans believe that Emma should really start taking acting more seriously if she has any plans of making it in the business after her Harry Potter days are over. But in order to do so, she would have to decide first whether she wants to be an actress at all. Looks like Emma herself, with her reluctance to fully commit herself to acting, has contributed quite a lot to the general concensus that she was not born to be an actress. The fans seem to believe that, as long as she is doubtful about her acting future and reluctant to devote herself 100% to acting, she won’t be using her full potential; and in the long run it might cost her a post-Potter career.
The final group of questions was about Emma’s looks, her celebrity status and the recent media conviction that she is the next “it” girl, the new fashion icon. Again, the fans’ opinions have been divided: while a majority believe that Emma getting all that media attention is good for the Harry Potter franchise in general, on the other hand, they also think that Emma has been getting too much attention at the expense of her more talented co-stars. While all fans agreed that Emma is cute and pretty, some think that her looks are slightly overrated – let me quote a fan opinion here: “She’s a pretty girl, but she’ll never be in the same sex bomb category as, say, Megan Fox or Scarlett Johansson.” And although most fans have no objections to Emma’s interest in and involvement with the fashion industry, they can’t help but note that “good looks alone do not make her a good actress,” and if she is serious about continuing as an actress, “she can’t count on her looks alone to score her new roles” – due to fierce competition she’s about to face once her Harry Potter days are over.
It is beyond doubt that Emma herself is aware of this, and maybe her reluctance to commit herself to acting career at the moment really has to do with her insecurity about her looks and her acting abilities. If this is the case, the only advise the fans seem to have agreed upon is that she should take her time, try out different things in the next couple of years, and then make a firm decision about her future and stick to it. In either case, Emma Watson has definitely grown on us all over the years we have watched her as Hermione Granger, so we all hope she’ll make the best decisions for her, and grow into a happy and accomplished person.
Emma Watson Questionnaire: Fans’ Feedback